Blog: News, views and some opinionated commentary from the team at Mecca Medialight


School

Education and Training

Mecca Medialight's has developed a number of educational simulations and games. These projects, such as "The Planning Game" (published by RMIT), "Apollonia" (Melbourne University), "The Virtual Direct Marketer" (Australia Post), and "After the Fact" (National Institute of Forensic Science) - as well as numerous corporate training programmes - create non-linear, immersive environments for learners to experiment and test their own ideas. These projects are designed to encourage risk taking and the exploration of hunches rather than simply present 'the right answer' to any given problem issue or situation. As learners engage the simulation or game, they are encouraged to question and reflect upon what they already know.  The teaching and learning framework underpinning these interactive projects treats learners as rational thinking people.

For example, "The Planning Game" is an interactive application built for Melbourne University, RMIT, La Trobe University, Planning Institute of Australia and The Victorian Government Department of Infrastructure. This learning module positions the user as a 'working planner' and presents them with different scenarios. Users are encouraged to explore the various options, and in doing so, the program helps raise an awareness of the constructed environment by presenting issues and decisions faced by professionals that may not otherwise be apparent. At a deeper level, this programme fosters awareness amongst learners of the types of decisions that go into shaping the built environment and to reflect on their own existing knowledge and insight.

When designing an interactive/multimedia response to a brief, an important consideration is that the delivery of educational resources must take into account a diversity of learning needs, preferences and styles. It is also important to be aware that the design and use of the software is imbued with cultural meanings that impacts upon the way teachers and students communicate, interact and participate within virtual learning environments. This 'cultural' context is often overlooked by software developers who often view technology as 'culturally neutral' and the context of its use as 'beyond their scope' of consideration.

Development Methodologies

At MeccaMedialight, we have adopted a methodology for evaluating the significance of cultural bias as a key qualitative property of software design that was outlined by Day (1996 ):

  • Recognizing culturally specific user expectations and the style of system design features as 'external' stimuli;
  • Belief about system usefulness and perception about system 'ease of use' as cognitive responses to such stimuli;
  • The users' sense of satisfaction in using the system as an effective response to the cognitive factors; and
  • Actual system use as a response to satisfaction.

In creating a process for design learning objects suitable for the target audiences, it is very important to focus on the users' expectations and needs: What are their expectations; What do they think will make the system easier to use; What skills and knowledge do they bring to the system and how can these best be utilized?

Our recognition of these issues enables us to design learning resources that not only promote equity of learning outcomes, but also reflect an awareness and integration of cultural diversity in learning and teaching into our software to achieve the best possible educational outcomes.